In practical or theoretical terms, a revolution begins with a rebellion of the people, which normally occurs with violence, and where the intention is to change power and take power. But my revolution is without any fight or without any intention or craving for power but changing the culture of existing political practice and generating new ideas where politicians will work hard for nation-building instead of ordering others.
I started my political career in 1990 in Bangladesh, a tiny but brave country in the world. As Bangladesh entered the turmoil of the 1990s, I thus became a grass root community figure in mobilizing youth against the army regime. Initially, this effort took place under the tutelage of the two major political parties. But as time passed, I became disillusioned with the formal political process. I observed that most people sought political power for power’s sake – not to serve the general public. The politicians were so busy making promises to people who might help them get into power that they lost sight of the people they were meant to serve.
The movement ultimately succeeded in ousting the military from power, paving the way for a more democratic government in Bangladesh. But the turmoil continued, with devastating effects on people’s lives.
So I returned to the team model that had worked so well after the 1988 flood: direct assistance to improve people’s lives. I continued to see hundreds of people killed and many more injured during protests and clashes with law enforcement and military forces. Ordinary laborers could not work because of curfews or strikes. Once again, our youth group in my area mobilized to help those jobless day labor people who are simply victims of the political games. Our youth forum group cooked for people and distributed food. We became true social workers, focused on alleviating distress and improving lives in our communities. Since we are doing politics but realizing the pain of normal day laborers who have no idea about our politics, it does not matter to them who is in power right now and who will go into power next because they believe that they are always in the same position and situation. From that very time, I realized the meaning of real politics.
Twenty years later, it was my turn to come under attack. I became a leading human rights attorney and advocate of the Bangladesh Supreme Court, where I was working for social justice and social workers’ rights. Despite some political improvements following the overthrow of the military regime, the system was still corrupt and based only on power. With my life in danger, I fled the country with my family. My passion for social justice and improving people’s lives came with me.
In many ways, politics is the same the world over. As is social work. The key is finding practical ways to improve people’s lives. The issues are so large and interconnected that we must forge new forms of collaboration between the political and social spheres.
. As an expert on electoral law and policy in Bangladesh, I strongly believe that voter engagement is a significant part of social work during elections, necessary to ensure democracy.
In short, social workers have many new opportunities to engage in social and political action – irrespective of party affiliation. A political social worker’s primary focus must be on serving the needs of their community rather than aligning themselves with any particular political party, race, color, or religion. They must work to bring about positive change and help individuals and groups overcome barriers to social and economic opportunity, regardless of their background or beliefs.
I began my journey during a flood in 1988 in a country 8,000 miles away from the U.S. Yet I continue the same social work activities today in my new home of Traverse City by serving food to homeless people through the United Methodist Church through my 501c3 called the Bangaleer Patshala School of Leadership.
Helping individuals will always be a core element of my social work and commitment to social justice. But just as important is trying to understand and influence the policy decisions being made that impact lives in so many ways. I encourage young people and old to take advantage of the many wonderful opportunities to become political, social workers, or simply more informed citizens. Our society will be stronger for it.
I am not a politician of this country, and not yet a citizen, but my responsibilities as a political social worker are to serve the community where I live regardless of boundaries.
Politicians are assigned to more than just competing in elections, running the office, and seating the power chair for ordering. Grass root-level social workers who are directly helping people, advocating community, and promoting a positive environment with their labor and energy are true leaders and true politicians. So, my team and I will introduce social work-based politics, where we create “political social workers” for our upcoming generation.